Homesickness – Come Home To Yourself!

by El-marie van Heerden on April 14, 2017

Homesickness – Come home to yourself!

By Elmarie van Heerden – LifeWorks Personal Development Trainer

What is homesickness?

Homesickness can be compared with ‘having the blues’. We tend to have negative thoughts about ourselves and our circumstances, feeling that we are “out there in the cold”, leading us to belief that we will only be happy if we are elsewhere. Being homesick implies that we are not mindful of where we are at the present moment. We are existing either in the past or the future.

A depressed mood like feeling homesick, is a temporary altered mood. It is far from the DSM 1V criteria for major depressive disorder. MDD includes a depressed mood lasting for at least 2 weeks AS WELL AS impaired functioning on a social, occupational or educational level. Furthermore, at least 5 of the following 9 symptoms must be present on a daily basis:

1. Depressed mood or irritable most of the day, nearly every day (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful).

2. Decreased interest or pleasure in most activities, most of each day

3. Significant weight change (5%) or change in appetite

4. Change in sleeping pattern

5. Change in activity: psychomotor agitation or retardation

6. Fatigue or loss of energy

7. Guilt/worthlessness: feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt

8. Concentration: diminished ability to think or concentrate, or more indecisiveness

9. Suicidality: Thoughts of death or suicide, or has suicide plan.

Clinically depressed people can experience homesickness, but not all homesick people are clinically depressed.

Why do a lot of expats feel homesick around Christmas time?

Homesickness is more intensely experienced over festive times. We naturally want to be with our loved ones, our friends and family. These feelings are heightened when we see other peoples’ profiles on Facebook and smiling groups of people on Instagram. We assume that everyone is having fun and warmly nestled in sharp contrast with us, far away and isolated.>

Our deepest psychological fear is to be abandoned, accompanied by feelings of loneliness. Our need to want to belong is heightened over the festive season.

Earning a living in the UAE can be challenging as it is, but more so if we are confronted with festive lights, Christmas trees and exhibited gifts, cards and festive foods – the traditional turkey, for one! The contrast between our blue and grey aura and the red, gold and silver of festive decorations that confronts us everywhere, is very visible (in our faces) indeed.

Most of us fill our time with work, and that can alienate us from our self awareness. Work expands to fill the time available. When work demands decrease, and more time is available, our blues are more in our face.

We not only miss our family and friends, but also the traditions of our childhoods.

What can we do to work through these feelings and try and enjoy the festive season?

We cannot go home to our family, but we can come home to ourselves. The choice is thus to accept the here and now instead of fighting it. What we resist, persists.

When we accept our present situation, we can step into our own power and from a level of being content, reach out to our loved ones by means of the social media. We can still send the traditional card, the long overdue letter and let everyone know that we are here now, and make the most of it. We did in any case chose to be here in the UAE, and with it, comes privileges – earning an income; gaining experience; exposure to diverse cultures and gaining self-knowledge – a greater sense of who we really are, which is not so obvious if we are in the presence of our loved ones who define us.

We always have a choice. We can choose to focus on what we miss out on and as a result feel lonely, questioning the point of everything and experience a temporary loss of care about ourselves. This will result in feelings of listlessness and feeling blue.

Homesickness causes the fibers that hold us to be really thin and fragile.

We can strengthen them by weaving in some colourful beads. What I call beads, is really actions, and actions absorbs homesickness.

Bead 1 :

Talk. Talk to a friend about how you feel. Take the plunge and talk to the person you have unfinished business with. It may be a little embarrassing to re-open the subject, but giving up a little pride is a small cost to pay for strengthening the fibers of your emotional health.

Bead 2 :

Change. Do boring things differently. Find another route, spice up your food, drink more water – add lemon slices or dunk in a freshly cut strawberry and crushed mint leaves.

Bead 3 :

Look good! Get out of your PJ’s as soon as you are out of bed. To dress and take care of your body, will enhance your mood. (A woman once told me that she touches-up her make-up and hair before making an important phone call because her confidence will be enhanced and it will be projected in her voice.)

Bead 4 :

Exercise, even if you don’t feel like it. Just do it. The “feel good hormones” that is released in your blood through exercise, is such a mood-enhancer that you will want to reach for your trainers.

Bead 5 :

Listen to a piece of energetic music for at least 5 minutes – anything that will get you tapping your feet.

Bead 6 :

Journal. It is therapeutic to write your thoughts down. Look at it later and re-frame it to be more rational. This will bring perspective.

Bead 7 :

The blues can cloud our vision. We therefore need to move out of our home and broaden our view. Look around – dare to smile at someone with a serious expression. Give way to another driver. Pay someone a compliment. It takes nothing to spread a little kindness. It goes a long way – and then completes its cycle by coming right back to you!

Bead 8 :

Laugh. Watch a silly movie and avoid depressing, serious ones. It will do you no harm to avoid watching the news for a few days.

Bead 9 :

Read. There are wonderful ‘feel good’ books on the market. One that I particularly enjoyed was Jonas Jonasson’s “The hundred year old man who climbed through the window and disappeared”.

Bead 10 :

Know that also this, the homesickness, will pass. You will not forever be blue – there are rhythms and seasons; movement throughout life.

Something to hold onto:

You can kiss your family and friends goodbye and put miles between you, but at the same time, you carry them with you in your heart, your mind and your stomach because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you. (F Buchner)

If you would like to talk, feel free to reach out to us. An LifeWorks therapist would be able to help.

Corina Saramet
Corina Saramet
Psychologist - English,Romanian,Spanish
Master Degree in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Bucharest, Romania
Nashwa Tantawy
Nashwa Tantawy
Psychologist - Arabic, English
M.A. in Counseling Psychology from The American University in Cairo
Jyotika Aggarwal
Jyotika Aggarwal
Clinical Psychologist - English
M.A.(Clinical Psychology), RE-CBT - Experience: 7 Years
Sailaja Menon
Sailaja Menon
Counseling Psychologist - English
CAGS (Multicultural Counseling), Johns Hopkins University, USA - Experience: 25 Years
Salma Mahmoud
Salma Mahmoud
Psychologist - Arabic and English
Master's in Psychology, BA Psychology - Experience: 12 Years
Iva Vukusic
Iva Vukusic
Clinical Psychologist - English, Croatian and German
Master of Psychology, Training of Trainers (ToT) Community
Dr.Marwa Abd El Hamid
Dr.Marwa Abd El Hamid
Clinical Psychologist - Arabic and English
Ph.D. in Psychology Ain-Shams University - Experience: 16 Years
Dr. Sravani Behara
Dr. Sravani Behara
Specialist Psychiatrist - English, Hindi and Telugu
MBBS, MD - Experience: 12 Years
Dr.Bassem Badr
Dr.Bassem Badr
Consultant Psychiatrist,Holistic Approach - Arabic and English
Master of Science in Neuropsychiatry - Experience: 25 Years

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